The lights were going off. The silent genius of Hollywood, director-writer-producer Sir Alan Parker arrived on stage. As a student of the Budapest Film Academy, I’ve been to his two-day film seminar. At the Corvin Movie Theater, almost five hundred young film students have been listening to his lessons about his half-century long career, sometimes spiced with a very British humor.
As an offspring of the British working class, he didn’t acquire his filming knowledge through listening to university lectures. His professionalism and liberal thinking has developed through a lot of practice thanks to those years he spent in the British advertising industry. Alan believes that ideas can’t be locked in a cage; you have to let them fly, as history only developed from foolish people’s foolish ideas.
Who would ever think of directing a film where the oldest actor is not more than 12 years old? With Bugsy Malone, a gangster musical featuring only child actors, Alan had captivated the United States, the country which was bitten with a desire to see Al Capone behind bars. He was on his way to Hollywood. Looking back on the early years, Alan said that he would probably not start to work on a production like this, as he knows how hard it is to actualize such a difficult project. Youth and lunacy…
The next step in his film career was Midnight Express. The story is based on a true memoir by Billy Hayes who was imprisoned in a Turkish prison from where he later escaped. The script was written by the young Oliver Stone. Alan emph asized, because of some technical problems, he needed to correct Stone’s work. The success of the film confirmed him.
We would probably think, when a film starts with the well-known sentence ’based on a true story’, it really is based on the truth. Sometimes yes and sometimes no … Alan also changed some moments of the real story of Midnight Express. He thinks, his version became better than the original one. Imagine, how many filmmakers (memo, writer, director, producer) deal with the story till it gets to the cinema and we can watch the final movie.
„The screen is a draft for me. I create guidelines for the making process to reach the final goal: the movie. And of course the first lines are always wrong.” Believe me, Alan spends two months to write the script, plus six months to refine it. „But this is still much easier than directing and even the lunch break is longer.” For the screenwriter to-be, he had an advice: do not hide your script in the drawer, show it to others. “And please, do not write as a novelist, just use simple expressions. Not the quantity, the quality is important. You need to explain the story in short words.”
„Only if you make it, you are getting better” – he said, you don’t want to work for the money but for the experience. Otherwise Alan also has many scripts on paper which may remain perhaps forever in the drawer.
These days, when everyone works with computers – even the writer, we need to think out of the virtual screen.
Here is a great idea from Alan: when you complete the script, or a part of that, stand up, print it out and go to a pub. Order your favorite glass of beer or coffee and read it through. Do not worry when the paper gets marked from your beverage.
As Alan said, a great writer is able to think not just in words, but in pictures. Moreover, he emphasized that it is necessary to know the director’s vision in order that the script can fit into his/her working style. Alan is one of those directors, who can feel the weak part of the script and not afraid to modify it.
Alan considers himself as a dramatic director. He is someone who always tries to find the hook between the drama, the art and the business with his projects. If he had an effect on the public life, he achieved everything what he could.
The creator of Fame, Angel Heart, Mississippi Burning and Evita is also making cartoons about his almost fifty-year career to hand on as heritage for the future generation. At the end of the two-day seminar, he said goodbye with a cartoon. After all these inspiring courses we felt like we are ready to take our first step to become a silent genius.